Friday, May 07, 2010
When you visit a town, it's always interesting to imagine if you could live there. I recently had the experience of being simultaneously drawn to and repelled by a locale. It was a small town, something of a throwback if you will, and charming, as small towns tend to be, and horrible, as small towns tend to be.
Mike made a stop into a locally-owned stationery store – an establishment one could refer to as a “corner variety” -- and emerged again, eyes bugging out of his head. “That place closed 20 years ago! It's just that nobody told them!” A serious time travel kind of place where you might expect to find Christopher Reeve (young, whole and alive), meet up with Jane Seymour (always stunning), just don't reach into your pocket for any pennies...Nearby on the street, we watched as a man in a long white beard, reflective vest, shorts and brown knee socks stopped traffic in the main intersection in order to pick up trash in the road.
Food joints are always telling. No matter the place, I can almost always find my cafe – it just takes one – the one with the community journal, the postcards for sale by a local artist, the killer avocado salad, and, if I'm really lucky, even the gluten-free options. I was in one of those cafes recently and while awaiting my tasty treat, a woman of no more than 30 walked in pulling behind her one of those shopping cart-type things which contained one straw hat, one newspaper, one banjo, and one copy of Magic for Dummies. I gasped audibly and clamped my hand over my mouth so that nothing else more offensive would escape. A wave of compassion for the town and this resident in particular rose to engulf my being. A spot that could accommodate this person as well as the tattooed, deep-voiced woman slapping my order on the counter was okay by me.
Dinner is another matter. Often I just give up. In my general experience, if you are following a sandwich board sign and descending stairs to a restaurant, you are headed for some meaty “American” food and a 17-year-old named Tiffany who will be-your-server-this-evening. In other words, you'll be hungry. The wave that engulfs me when Tiffany still hasn't brought the water I asked for 20 minutes ago to wash down the “food” in front of me is pure irritation, which interestingly, banjo-playing magician women forgotten, usually begins to extend to the whole of the human race.
I'm pretty sure that what makes an attribute for a town fall into the charming or horrible categories has much to do with whether or not you have, not just someone to share it with, but perhaps a community of folks to share it with. People who see things the way you see them. You gotta call kitsch kitsch. Otherwise, you may 1) go crazy or 2) loose all perspective and wake up one day to find your chic urban haircut grown out and in its place a bouncy side ponytail.